If you looked at it drawn as a graph it’s a U. It’s called the happiness curve. It’s shaped like a smile – that you want to punch in the chops if you are north of 28 and aren’t anywhere near retirement.
There are decades in the bottom of that U. Decades and decades of life getting more serious. Of children and mortgages and jobs that lack security. Of health worries and broken dreams and unexplained, fast growing hairs in strange places. Does it sound fun yet 20-somethings?
My early 20's were great. Brilliant. If I look back and close my eyes, I really think that I could have been a different person. I didn’t worry so much, I didn’t have so many daily responsibilities, I did things on a whim. It’s such a lovely word: whim. I travelled, I wore clothes that didn’t suit me that I thought were spectacular, I worked in places until I tired of them and then I moved on without a second thought. I did a lot of things without thinking (and I’m still here which is amazing considering that night in Barcelona).
Now I’m one of life’s great thinkers. Not in a Rodin kind of way, but in a there-are-two-thousand-thoughts-in-my-head at any time kind. Life is different at 40 than at 20. That's a truth. It's also true that no-one can be happy all of the time. It’s a state. And by definition states are transitory. Happiness is only part of our life picture but we seem to return to the foot of this great idol as though it is both a right and 24/7 necessity.
There are other things that make up the scaffolding of a good life: love, fulfillment, knowledge, creativity, compassion, growth, watching someone walk out of a bathroom with toilet paper on their shoe (did I mention compassion?), to name a few.
I want happiness to be in my day, and I know rather than whine that life has lost it’s crazy magic, and that it’s tough sometimes, I have a responsibility to try and make myself happy. No-one is going to knock on my door and say: “I’m the happiness fairy and I’m here to sprinkle happy dust all over you. Now bend down motha f*cker”. (You can put that on an inspirational Instagram quote feed if you want).
To facilitate a happiness spike in the day, I’ve made a list of little things that just might deliver an upswing. It’s scientifically based, just like the Happiness research. I stood up and yelled “what are little things that make you happy?” to a room of about 100 women. I also thought about what makes me happy. Or even what gives me a a little frisson of internal light and warmth when I need one.
Then I wrote a letter to those researchers who came up with the Happiness curve and said maybe you should stick to working out what came before the Big Bang. I mean, was there just nothing before this huge big earth and, if there was, how could that be?